Imagine Brian Urlacher wearing a uniform other than the customary Chicago Bears blue and orange.
While that's likely difficult to envision, Urlacher, who enters the final year of his contract understands the reality he could very well be playing for a different team in 2013, and despite his desire to remain with the club, the linebacker finds the prospect of free agency somewhat exciting.
I've never been a free agent. So if I can get to free agency we'll see what happens. I no doubt want to finish my career here. There's no doubt about that. But you bring in free agency and all that you just never know what's gonna happen."
A 12-year veteran, Urlacher celebrated his 34th birthday on Friday. He enters his 13th season with the Bears and is in the last year of a five-year extension he signed in 2008. He is set to earn a base salary of $7.5 million in 2012 with a cap hit of $9.7 million.
Coming off a knee injury in the 2011 season finale, in which he sustained damage to the medial collateral and posterior collateral ligaments in his right knee, Urlacher has participated sparingly in the team's recent OTA workouts.
Urlacher expects to be fully healthy by the time the Bears start training camp in July.
Having topped the 100-tackle plateau for a franchise-record 11th time in 2011 with 135 stops, Urlacher continues to state his desire is to eventually retire a Bear.
"The Bears know I want to be here. I've told them that. I've said it publicly, and that's not gonna change," he said. "Whatever happens during the season or after the season, we'll address it then. But they know I want to be here, and I think they want me here."
The Bears' intention to wait until the conclusion of the 2012 season to address the contract might seem contradictory to that. Urlacher, however, doesn't see it that way.
Still, he's leery of the club's actions in the past, namely the situation last summer in which the team let center Olin Kreutz depart via free agency.
Prior to joining the New Orleans Saints, Kreutz had declined more lucrative offers from other teams in the past to remain with the Bears. But despite him making six Pro Bowls and starting in a team-high 134 consecutive games, the Bears made contract offers that Kreutz's representatives considered unreflective of his worth to the team.
"I understand the business side of where they're coming from. We have a lot of young good players here that need to get paid as well. So I understand how that goes," Urlacher said. "But like I said, at the same time I've never been a free agent. So you also bring that into play. (Longtime franchise fixture) Olin (Kreutz) got to free agency and it was a different offseason because we couldn't be in the facility. We couldn't talk. So it's a little different now than his situation. But we'll just see what happens."